Wealth is perceived differently by many cultures. On an island called Yap located in the western Pacific Ocean they determine wealth by the size of the stone disks that they own. The bigger the stone the more it is worth. They trade currency by trading rocks for something of value. This is similar to the way that us in the United States trade currency but what we use to pay already has a set value which is determined by the government. In Yap, when using a rock to buy something the seller has to trust the buyer that the rock they are giving them is really worth what they say it is. After learning about Yap and how they conduct business it made me rethink a lot of things thought I thought I knew about money. Ever since I was little my opinion on money was shaped by childhood games such as Monopoly. The money in Monopoly works the same and they money in our current banking system and even the system that is on the island of Yap because the money is basically tangible objects that represent wealth. And in order for us to obtain things we need or sell things we don’t we need to use these tangible objects that “worth” something. Nothing but the rules of the game make a $500 Monopoly bill worth more than a $5 Monopoly bill. The same is true of the flimsy paper we call dollars.
So what dictates how much a dollar really is? Unlike Yap we don’t go by the size of a rock and trust the other person what it is worth. In the U.S. we just believe that a green piece of paper is worth what the government says it’s worth. We then buy goods based on those set denominations It does make everything more simple, and simplicity is what makes the world go round. Take credit cards for instance, people can press two buttons on a computer and send a certain amount of money or numbers in account half way around the world in a matter of seconds makes it easy for us as humans to trade, buy and sell much faster. Imagine if today instead of pulling out your credit card or a five dollar bill, you had to pay with giant stones or little rocks as they did on Yap, how hard would that be? Extremely hard. It is easier for us to grasp the fact that a dollar is worth what it is, because for as long as we have known that’s how it has been.
But they way we pay for things, make transactions and use the banks are easier than we think. The banking system is like a game of poker. You exchange the bills in your wallets for chips, to match the currency that everyone else is using, which are just representations of how much money you really have. You play a game betting your money on how much you think your hand is worth and whether you win or lose dictates how much money you have left. Just like your work a job you make money and then spend money but you never know how much you really have, it’s just numbers going back and forth between you and the dealer which in this case is the bank. So after reading and learning about the people on Yap I feel like I have a better understanding on why money is the way it is. It is all about making the once primitive bartering system simpler for us.